This is part two in a series about the illusion of community. Part one was about online community networks. Today, let’s talk about how we’re doing at building community in our weekend gatherings. Yet again, not as good as we should be.
Based on part one, you already know I take issue with the ‘Christian’ bubble. So it’s no surprise to see that so many weekend church gatherings are not conducive to building community. We park, we play, we pray, we partake and we say peace out before heading to lunch. I know small groups have been struggling to answer this community-building challenge facing churches, but in general, it all seems very insulating and isolating from the very people who need community with God and with others.
I have visited a lot of churches throughout my short life, and in the last 10 years, I can recall only once when a couple I did not know came up to me after a service and invited me and my wife to a meal with them. Even more appalling, I have never once invited someone I didn’t know to a meal after a service. And that’s the problem folks. It’s not that I think church leadership lacks ideas or commitment to getting people to connect outside of a service, it’s that we as the church are not being the church.
I talked about ROOV in part one and how they’re attempting to bridge this divide between online community and offline community. I learned a few weeks ago that they are ideating about some things that will connect people who are in the same room around similar affinities. It’s like having people raise their hand if they play golf and then those people go play golf and connect. Friends, this is really simple stuff, but it’s not happening in our weekly gatherings as much as it should be.
Shift Our Thinking
I believe that until we get our thinking to change from church being something we go to as opposed to something that we are, we will never understand the call to community and communion. Rob Bell has a good message on the Eucharist (‘eu’ meaning ‘well’ and ‘kharis’ meaning ‘favor/grace’, together meaning a ‘good gift’) and what it means to be a “good gift” to others just as Jesus was a good gift to us through his body. We are not meant to just receive the good gift of Jesus. We’re meant to be the good gift of Jesus!
This thinking of going versus being has permeated our culture in more than just church. Gone are the days when work was something we did. We now go to work. Education used to be something that we did by learning at all times. Now we go to school. We’ve removed the responsibility of being the church, doing work, and learning by making it something other than a part of us. Perhaps this is why it’s easier to complain about church, work and school because they are places instead of postures.
Our thinking must change. Our actions must change. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “One of the great tragedies of life is that men seldom bridge the gulf between practice and profession, between doing and saying.” He was also convinced that action by a few wasn’t enough, it would take all of us. “I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be.”